I’m a blessed man. My job allows me to meet incredible people and taste different slices of life that I might not otherwise have experienced. As previously reported, I’ve enjoyed the thrill of watching a NASCAR race from the best seat in the house–on pit road. I’ve hit the road on the back of a Harley with friends. And I had the chance of a lifetime to watch a Boston Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park. I don’t take any of these opportunities for granted.
About a week ago I experienced yet another first: I went on a hunting trip with about a dozen men. The purpose of the hunt was to encourage each other in our roles as husbands, parents, and company leaders. And, by unplugging from our Blackberries and computers, we’d have the chance to detox from the stress of the daily grind.
I should point out these weren’t just ordinary folks like me. I’m talking a number of these guys were serious hunting pros. Guys like C.J. Buck, CEO of Buck Knives, Ray Hobbs, President of Daisy Outdoor Products, Mike Disario, Founder and President of OEI Properties, Bob Hodgdon, President of Hodgdon Powder, and Stephen Bindon, President and CEO of Trijicon among others.
Frankly, the thought of hunting with such experts was a bit intimidating for the rookie–that would be me. I sat in class all evening on Friday and all day on the Saturday before the trip to qualify for the Hunter Safety Card. I passed with something like a 94%. Yes, I missed three questions that cost me two points each. I could only hope it wasn’t the important questions that I missed, like how to point your gun, or when not to shoot! But that bright orange certificate was evidence that the instructor thought I was ready for the big hunt.
Ken Windebank and John Bethany from our staff joined me as we headed off to Medicine Bow River Ranch in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. When I say “ranch” I’m talking a breath-taking 77,000 acre stretch of Creation featuring rolling hills dotted with sage brush, beautiful canyons, and tree-lined rivers. We arrived in the evening, spent some get-to-know you time together before heading to bed.
As I traveled a couple of miles down the dirt road to the cottage where I’d be staying, I couldn’t help but notice how the stars popped in the sky. They seemed to sparkle with pulses of white light, much like the lights twinkling on a Christmas tree. There were more stars than I was accustomed to seeing. And, you could see an antelope or mule deer darting in the distance under the moonlight.
To be candid, the sight of those majestic creatures moving about under the stars caused me to have mixed feelings about the big hunt the next day. You know, did I really want to shoot ’em? I knew my wife Jean wasn’t exactly thrilled about the hunting trip. On the other hand, we weren’t hunting just for the sport. I knew I’d eat the meat of anything I shot. Upon further reflection, I didn’t see that there was much difference between buying and eating meat from the market than harvesting and eating a deer in Wyoming.
It all happens pretty much the same way.
The next morning we got out there pretty early. We had breakfast at 6:00, sight in the rifles at 7:00 and headed out to find something at about 8:00. At least that was the schedule. Turns out we took a bit longer sighting the guns (the process of adjusting your scope through trial and error for maximum accuracy). We didn’t reach the fields until about 9:30 when most of the creatures were well on their way to bed. We saw some amazing bucks off in the distance but never had a chance to take a shot.
Fast forward to the fourth and final day.
At this point I was one of the only guys who didn’t shoot anything. I was okay with that–especially given some of the internal debate I had experienced. Since Ken and I were exhausted, we quietly told the other hunters that we were going to head back to camp. As we worked our way down the ridge of a canyon, we continued to maintain our silence by primarily using hand signals to communicate.
After a while, however, we were tired of whispering and using hand motions. We decided to talk as we walked. Picture two loud rookie hunters, talking up a storm when, about 200 yards from the top of the ridge, we saw eight to ten huge bucks. Let’s just say that the look on their faces was as if they were thinking, “What a bunch of noisy City Slickers. Don’t they know how to hunt?”
All of them would have been an easy shot from our position. One problem. I just went through the hunter safety course which says you can’t shoot up into the air towards the top of a ridge. If you missed, you might just hit somebody on the other side. And, with the rest of our group somewhere over the ridge, that’s the last thing we wanted to do. The only other option was to try and push the bucks down the other side towards our fellow hunters, which we did. Sure enough, one of the guys did get one.
The next morning we packed our bags and prepared to leave, one of the men told me, “Jim, I couldn’t afford the time for this trip. But I must say I’ve got a fresh perspective on my life, my family, and my business for having made the time.” Come to think of it, while I didn’t catch any big game, the chance to see God encourage this man in his life is the only “trophy” I needed.